A couple of weeks ago, I was blessed with a rare opportunity. one of the movie theaters in town did a midnight showing of this. Naturally, being a "Dogs" freak, I went down and saw it.
To say I was blown away would be an understatement. I have only seen two of Mr. Tarantino's films in the theater. This being one, and "Kill Bill" being the other. I only became a fan of his a year ago and have subsequently seen all of his films and own them all.
It really was a treat to be able to sit in the movie theater and watch this while eating grossly overpriced popcorn and drinking a grossly overpriced soda.
For those who don't know, the film involves a jewelry heist. Six strangers including Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Eddie Bunker, Tarantino himself, and Tim Roth are recruited by a crime boss named Joe Cabot, (Lawrence Tierney) and his son Eddie, whom everybody calls "Nice Guy" (Chris Penn). The six are almost all friends or associates of Cabot, particularly Keitel and Madsen. Cabot gives them colors for names (Mr. White, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Pink, Mr. Blue, etc.) And expressly forbids them to reveal anything about themselves to each other, so if anyone is caught, no one can inform on anybody. But the heist goes wrong, the cops seem to show up way to fast, some members of the group are killed, and the rest start returning to the rendesvous point to try to sort out what went wrong. After the arrival of Mr. Pink, They realize that one of the number is a police informer. The arrival of Mr. Blonde, and the present he has in his trunk, complicates things even more. Things are also complicated by the fact that since no one knows each other, discovering who the informer is is given added difficulty, since no one trusts each other.
This film, Tarantino's first, is one of the best, if not the best one he has ever done. but part of this credit has to go to his outstanding cast. Keitel is an old pro at this type of thing, he has the distinction of being the first older actor who's career seemed to be going into a slump and who has recovered thanks to Tarantino's casting. But Tarantino can't claim sole credit for that, because Keitel really got the ball rolling on the project and help him score his budget and the prominence to gain his cast. Buscemi IS Mr. Pink. Tarantino wrote the role for himself, and he would have been good, but Buscemi brings a type of weasly professionalism to the role that no one else could. Penn and Tierney are ideally cast as the father and son who are left to sort out the mess of the robbery, Bunker is only in a few scenes but livens up the proceedings. Tarantino gives himself the perfect monologue for his character (Like a Virgin is a metaphor for big d*cks), and Tim Roth gives a spectacular performance as Mr. Orange, who is relegated to bleeding on the floor for a large chunk of the movie. His scene in the car when he has just been shot is particulary outstanding. But then, of course, I have to throw out a special nod to my favorite character in the piece, Mr. Blonde, as portrayed by Michael Madsen. Blonde is the definition of "Bad*ss", and Madsen fits him like a glove. His first scene back at the warehouse is particularly memorable, as is the "Ear torture sequence". Without Madsen's portraying of Mr. Blonde, I don't think the "Ear" scene would have worked, Madsen just does something with it that nobody else can. Not only does Blonde have most of the coolest lines, he's fun to watch on screen, especially his reaction to a gun pointed in his face by Mr. White. Madsen rocks!
"Dogs" Is one of the few movies where I don't think thae casting could have been any better. Part of the reason it works as well as it does has to go the the way the cast works with each other. No one seems to think that they are better than anyone else, and no one seemed to approach the project with the stuck up feeling of how bad it was that they were doing an indie film on a low budget and with an unknown director. Every single member of the cast gives everything he (or, to a much lesser extent, she) has. It's this mindset that, I think, has made "Dogs" the classic it is today. Little could be improved upon.
As a side note, This came out a year after "Thelma and Louise" which also stars Harvey Keitel and Michael Madsen. However, in "Dogs" They play ruthless characters. In "T&L" they play the only sympathetic Male characters in the entire movie. An ideal would be to watch "T&L" then "RD" and really see the difference. They are two great actors, and they deliver. And for those who enjoyed Madsen in this, I also recommend "Kill Me Again", made a few years earlier, and which also features a scene where he tortures someone.
"Dogs" is a great film to watch. Not a date flick, but for a cops and robbers movie, it's perfect. Seeing it for the first time in a theater, it hasn't lost it's touch, and the "Stuck in the Middle with You"/Ear sequence has never been more intense or memorable.